Muslim conference goes on at nearby mosque after Palais des congres cancellation
Published Sunday, September 8, 2013 4:21PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 8, 2013 7:31PM EDT
MONTREAL - A Muslim conference that was cancelled last week after the PQ government objected to the participation of four speakers invited from France was held anyway Sunday at a downtown mosque.
The conference, entitled Between Heaven and Earth, was to take place at thePalais des congres convention centre in downtown Montreal on September 7 and 8. It was instead held at the Al-Omah Al-Islamiah Mosque on St-Dominique St.
About 100 people attended the conference at the new location, where organizers wouldn’t comment to media, but several participants told CTV Montreal they felt it was unfair the event was initially cancelled. They said they did not feel there was anything extremist about the nature of the conference.
About 1,000 to 2,000 people were expected to attend the event at the Palais des congres, which the convention centre cancelled last Saturday due to security concerns after some groups threatened to protest against the event.
A protest planned for Sunday evening outside the mosque on St. Dominique brought out two people.
CTV Montreal reporter Kevin Gallagher attended a session where speakers discussed how to be a good Muslim; giving examples of donating to charity and being kind to neighbours.
The Independence Collective, which had organized the event, held a press conference last Friday to defend itself against charges of embracing a radical view of Islam and denounced what they said was a vilification campaign against the event.
The speakers from France slated to address the conference included Mohamed Francois, president of the Information Culte Musulman, Farid Mounir, President of the Islamic Sociocultural Centre, Nader Abou Anas, president of the D’CLIC Association and Mohammed Patel an expert on legalities of Islamic finance.
The four are experienced speakers who frequently address Muslim crowds and many of their speeches can be seen on YouTube.
The Quebec authorities objected to some of their ideas, which include a critique of what they consider the sometimes too-liberal clothing habits of western women.
One speaker, Nader About Anas, had previously said that women are "servants of Allah" and are "not free to do what they want in this world."
Agnes Maltais, the provincial minister in charge of women's affairs wrote to her federal counterpart Kelly Leich on August 21, asking her to “take the measures necessary to avoid the propagation of dialogue unacceptable to Quebec women.”
Gallagher noted Sunday that the room was divided by gender, with the men in front, near the speakers, then a rope divider, and women at the rear of the room. Women were dressed in traditional burkas and headscarves, whereas some men were dressed in casual wear, including jeans. Women attending the conference told Gallagher, however, they felt they were always treated as equals.
Federal public safety minister Steve Blainey said last week that several federal departments had been looking into the case and that the Canadian Embassy in Paris had been researching the background of the speakers.
-With a file from The Canadian Press